Monday, March 30, 2009

Homophobia in soccer, part. 71: Maradona vs. Pelé

Years after retiring, the two greatest soccer players in history are suddenly in the midst of a nasty pissing match.

The latest: Saturday night in Buenos Aires, the national soccer team of Argentina defeated Venezuela in a world cup-qualifying match by a score of 4 to 0.

The crushing win was a redemption of sorts for Diego Armando Maradona (left), a soccer legend who had faced ridicule when he was named coach of the Argentinian national team in October (Saturday's game was his coaching debut).

Maradona had spent the last decade battling drug-addiction and weight gain in a very public way and some felt it was a mistake to hand him the reigns of the team.

Unfortunately, Maradona's big come-back is not the only thing that is making worldwide headlines today. A seventeen second exchange between a reporter and the Argentinian coach on the eve of the game is also raising eyebrows.


Reporter: "I wanted to know your thoughts regarding what Pelé said in the past few days about you being a 'bad role model'..."

Maradona, in Spanish: "No sé. Él debutó con un pibe" [which, literally translated, sounds innocuous enough: "I don't know, he was initiated by a man"].
The Pelé in question, of course, refers to that other soccer legend from Brazil. Last week he'd called Maradona a "bad role model" when asked about his thoughts on Maradona being named coach of Argentina. As for Maradona's response and the 'debut' comment, here is how The Times of London puts it:
When Maradona was asked at a press conference before Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match against Venezuela to respond to Pelé’s claim that he was a negative influence on children, he said: “What do you want me to say? He lost his virginity to a man.”

In 2000, Maradona accused Pelé, who has advertised male impotence drugs, of having an affair with a male coach, a claim that a close friend of the Brazilian dismissed as the mad rantings of a sick man who was addicted to cocaine. “It was never true but Pelé is a big man and he decided that he would not respond and create a big battle between himself and Maradona,” Celso Grellet said.
More about the feud here.

Questioning a rival's sexuality is pretty par for the course in soccer so this doesn't necessarily shock that much. But what actually took me aback a little was the sound of all the other reporters in the room busting into laughter.

Related:
Previously:

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Kawika moment, Pt. 2



Yes. Kawika has started blogging, which I absolutely love. Unexpectedly, though, he includes a post about his first New York visit experience. An excerpt:
As comfortable as I'd gotten being there, the moment I had my first glimpse of the view [at the top of the Rockefeller Center] I was immediately overwhelmed. All the feelings I experienced when I first arrived came rushing back to me and I couldn't help but feel like a little island boy in the middle of this huge city.

I stood there in awe, just taking in everything... enjoying the warmth of the sun and a slight cool breeze. I tried to explain to Andrés what I was feeling and got choked up mid-sentence as reality sunk in. I accomplished what was once just a big dream to a little island boy. I remember telling him that I wished my family could see what I was seeing and it took just about every ounce of my energy to choke back my tears.
OMG! I loved hosting Kawika and knew that visiting New York had been a special thingie for him but I was nevertheless moved by what he wrote. Above: El Kawika overlooking Central Park; Below: El Blabbeador, El Pointy Building, and El Kawika.


Previously:

Peru: Court annulls sentence of anti-gay serial murderer, orders new trail



A Peruvian appellate court has dismissed an earlier conviction against Pedro Pablo Nakada Ludeña - known as Perú's worst serial murderer - which called for 35 years in jail for the murder of nine individuals. Nakada, who is 35, had actually confessed murdering from twelve to twenty-five people between the years of 1990 and 2006 (depending on accounts), saying that God had called upon him to clean the city streets of gays, drug addicts and prostitutes.

After the May 2008 verdict, an appeal was submitted alleging that Nakada was mentally ill and suffered from schizophrenia (claims that were introduced during the civil court trial but rejected by the jury). They also claimed that the verdict was unconstitutional since the ruling did not specifically assign a motive for the murders as reacquired by law.

This week the appellate court agreed and annulled the jail sentence. They also ordered a new trial under a 'security process' system specifically addressing cases in which someone who is accused of a crime is found to have mental disabilities. If found guilty, Nakada would face confinement in a mental health institute but avoid a jail sentence.

In a 2006 police interview, a couple of days after his arrest, Nakada confessed to many of the murders without showing guilt or remorse. Excerpts culled from a transcript, as published then by La Republica, are chilling:
Authorities: You assert being an envoy from God to purify the earth, do you regret committing so many crimes?
Nakada: What do I have to feel sorry about? Those people shouldn't exist.
Authorities: So, if you had another opportunity, would you kill again?
Nakada: I had the mission of cleaning the streets of drug-addicts, homosexuals and thieves. I still have a pending job...
Authorities: Didn't you think about your family, your wife, your children?
Nakada: I love my wife, María [...] and my three sons.
A report released along with the transcript said that Nakado claimed to have been sexually abused by family members when he was four, that he'd begun killing animals at at five and that his oldest sister forced him to wear girl's clothing when he was six. During his teens, he said, he killed cows, horses and bulls and took great pleasure in seeing them suffer.

In 1990, Nakada enlisted in the Peruvian armed forces but only served two months. Military psychiatrists recommended his discharge, calling him a 'dangerous to society.' They reported that Nakara listened to voices giving him Divine mandates and labeled him a psychopath. Nakada was never referred to any treatment and was said to be suicidal after being rejected by the military. By then he had learned how to use firearms. It was around that time, at the age of 17, that he said that he killed his first human victim when he caught someone stealing a watermelon from a fruit cart. He would confess to murdering another 19 persons and called himself "The Apostle of Death".

Not all his claims have proved credible. News reports still report his initial claim that he belonged to the Peruvian Air Force, which has proven false. There are also reports that his name of birth is Pedro Pablo Mesías Ludeña and that he changed his last name to Nakada in 2003 to acquire a Japanese sounding last name in hopes to moving there someday.

Families of the victims claim that Nakara is faking mental illness to escape a jail sentence and that he should serve a sentence in jail for his crimes. It's unclear if a new trial might bring a similar imprisonment rem in a mental health facility but some psychologists have also expressed concern that mental institutions might not be ready to integrate a mass murderer into their facilities.

Sources:
[Photo above from Caretas magazine]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Venezuela: Same-sex unions are NOT being considered by Assembly despite reports, says legislator

Almost a full week after a Venezuelan legislator announced that a parliamentary commission was putting the recognition of same-sex partnership rights on the fast-track, a colleague held a press conference yesterday to play down any possibility that such a bill was on the horizon.

Background: On Friday, Romelia Matute - one of seven member of the Family, Women and Youth Commission - stated that a gender equality bill being drafted for a parliamentary vote in June would include language creating the recognition of "co-inhabiting associations" as a way to allow "the union of two people of the same gender."

If approved, she said, the bill would grant legislative recognition to "the joint-living associations formed by two persons of the same gender, on mutual accord and free agreement, with the full legal and patrimonial effect".

She also indicated that members of the Venezuelan Assembly had met with LGBT rights organizations and activists and that the bill would soon be voted upon and approved.

Not so fast: But yesterday, Marelys Pérez - the Commission's Chairwoman - denied that any such language was being considered as part of the gender equality bill and said that the National Assembly was not ready to legislate on same-sex unions or same-sex partners living together.

Accoridng to El Tiempo, Pérez said that she had decided to make a public statement to express concern that national and international press were reporting that the National Assembly and the Venezuelan government would legally recognize same-sex unions.

"The 'Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality' Act establishes respect for those who those who have a sexual option, safeguards their human rights, calls for no discrimination, but it is something different than granting legal [recognition] to homosexual unions," she said, "that is not the objective of this law."

When she was reminded that it was another Commission member who had set the ball rolling by indicating that same-sex partnerships would advance as part of the bill, Pérez replied that Assemblymember Matute had spoken about a personal initiative that had yet to be taken under consideration and which did not involve the National Assembly as an institution.

According to Cadena Global, Pérez said that the Commission would debate the same-sex partnership rights initiative but that they would leave it out of the current bill and probably wait for reforms to the Civil Code or a future anti-discrimination bill.

The bill as currently drafted would still grant "the right of every person to live a pleasurable, responsible and freely decided sexuality, and the capacity of exercising a sexual orientation and identity without discrimination and in conditions of equality", according to the paper.

Previously:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cuba: "Milk" to be screened as part of anti-homophobia campaign

Somewhere on this earth, Sean Penn must be smiling.

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raúl Castro, and Director of the Cuban Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), announced the launch of a campaign to demand respect for the freedom of living one's sexual orientation.

The campaign, which was announced yesterday, will combat homophobia in the Caribbean island through messages and activities developed by and targeted at younger generations.

The Center, according to the AFP, will sponsor a series of weekly academic and public events at the University of La Habana, including public screenings of HBO's "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (which portrayed the life of three separate lesbian couples living during different points in time) and - wouldn't you know it! - Gus Van Sant's "Milk" (in which Sean Penn portrays Harvey Milk).

Penn has been criticized for writing about his recent visits to Cuba and Venezuela - and Presidents Raúl Castro and Hugo Chávez, respectively - and painting a mostly favorable picture of life in both countries under each authoritarian figure (here is the latest). This has come, specifically, in light of his portrayal of Harvey Milk and the reported violations of human rights against gays in these countries (ehem, even I piled on Penn back in December).

But Penn must be laughing at critics based last week's news that Venezuela might soon grant some partnership rights to same-sex couples and yesterday's news that Mariela Castro is broadening her long-time effort to challenge homophobia in Cuba.

Among critics, few acknowledge that there have been advances on LGBT rights in either country and that's the basic flaw in their criticism. Cuba has jumped ahead leaps and bounds from Fidel Castro's sorry LGBT rights legacy. Chávez, not so much. But it's great to know that both countries seem to be engaged in increasing the recognition of rights for their LGBT populations.

Related:
  • Official site for Cuba's "Diversity is natural" campaign site here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Venezuela: Same-sex partnerships on fast track to being legally recognized, says legislator

[PLEASE READ THE 3/26/09 UPDATE WHICH DEBUNKS THIS POST: SAME-SEX UNIONS ARE NOT BEING CONSIDERED BY LEGISLATURE, SAYS ANOTHER LEGISLATOR - GO HERE FOR FURTHER INFO]

Romelia Matute
(left), a member of Venezuela's National Assembly and Deputy of the Assembly's Family Commission, has announced that the Venezuelan legislature is well on its way to approving a bill that would grant same-sex couples legal recognition, including shared patrimony and inheritance rights.

As reported on Friday in Spain's ABC, Matute stated that "the report on the 'Organic Bill for Gender Equality' is almost ready for a second - and final - [legislative] debate," adding that it would include language allowing "the union between two people of the same gender" in the form of something she called "co-inhabiting associations".

Matute said that members of the National Assembly, a majority of whom belong to President Hugo Chávez' party, had met "several times" with gay rights organizations and said that it was those organizations who requested that the "co-inhabiting association" term be used.

She said that the government would recognize "the joint-living associations formed by two persons of the same gender, on mutual accord and free agreement, with the full legal and patrimonial effect".

Matute also said that the bill would address transgender issues: "Whoever changes their gender through quirurgical means, or any other means, exercising their freedom, has the right to their identity, and to drafting or changing all documents associated with their identification".

In a statement distributed today by Radio Reflejos of Venezuela - which operates an online LGBT news radio show - they call it a collective achievement for the LGBT Venezuelan movement and single out a few individuals who, they say, have attended meetings with those drafted the bill: Transgender rights activist Rummie Quintero from Transfemenina, who is said to be the first transgender person to be ever called for consultation by the National Assembly; Elena Hernaíz from the Reflejos Foundation; transgender attorney Tamara Adrian, from Diverlex (pictured right); and organizations such as Union Afirmativa, the Lesbian Feminist Collective, and others.

Interestingly, they do not mention the United Socialist Bloc for Homosexual Liberation or their leader Heisler Vaamonde, who has aligned himself with the Chávez government over the years despite few advances in LGBT rights during his decade-old rule.

The activists do urge people to contact the Deputies of the Family Commission to offer support for this initiative as it reaches the parliamentary floor for a vote. They include:
  • Marelys Pérez Marcano: marelysperez@an.gob.ve
  • Flor Ríos florrios: @ an.gob.ve
  • Carmen Rodríguez Rauseo: carmenrodriguez @ an.gob.ve
  • Juan José Molina: juanmolina @ an.gob.ve
  • Diluvina Cabello: diluvinacabello @ an.gob.ve
  • Alberto Castellar: albertocastelar @ an.gob.ve
There are no specific details on when the bill might reach the floor for a vote.

Sources:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Musica: F.O.K. Electrochongo



This has a story (it might be a boring story but at least it has a story). Sorta like the post I wrote on Thursday about the story behind those Nude Avenger photos, except this one has less tattoos. And is gayer.

Meet F.O.K. (left), founder of the electrochongo movement in Buenos Aires. He sometimes plays with Kumbia Queers and Peter Pank and the Lost Boys (check out their video for "You, your boyfriend and I" above).

F.O.K. added me as a friend on MySpace months ago but, because I don't check my MySpace page anymore, I sorta forgot.

Thing is, F.O.K. is friends with Mariano - who writes the great Spanish-language blog Lake y su bizarre streaming - which is how F.O.K. found me and added me to his MySpace friends (I told you it was a boring story!).

Anyway, today I found a message from F.O.K. from last year alerting me he'd recorded a cover of Alaska y Dinarama's "Ni Tu Ni Nadie" but that was back in July! He is now finishing producing a 2nd album with the tentative title of "Kultura Kareoki".

So with apologies to F.O.K. for taking this long, here is everything (and probably more than you'd want to know) about F.O.K:
Here is F.O.K. performing a live version of the very Alask'ish and Dinaram'ish "Give me back my CD's":


F.O.K. on stage (too bad about the sound quality):


Oh, btw, nalgas.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Colombia: Regretting gender change, court allows man to regain birth name

In the past, I've written about legal precedents in Latin America allowing transgender individuals to legally change their name of birth on legal documents to better reflect their assumed gender (including Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba).

Well, a little-noticed October 2008 ruling from Colombia's Constitutional Court, goes a step further.

The case: A man who had undergone hormone-treatment as part of transitioning to being a woman was also able to legally change his name to that of a woman at a local civil registry office in Cali. Regretting his decision to change his gender at a later date, he asked the office to change his name back to his original name, and was denied. He was told that the law only allows a person a one-time change of name for the purpose of correcting legal records or making one's name be more in line with one's identity. He took the case to court in Cali but it was also rejected under similar arguments.

The 26 year-old man, who is not identified in court papers to protect his privacy, challenged the decision before the country's highest court and, in October, the Constitutional Court ruled in his favor by ordering the civil registry office to allow him to regain his birth name.

The ruling: The court weighed the legal limitations which specify that a person can only change his or her name a single time versus constitutional protections safeguarding the right to the free development of one's self. They expressed that this was an "exceptional" case and ruled that to deny someone who identified as a man the right to change his female name would indeed violate his constitutional rights. From the ruling:
...the Court cannot ignore that this is an exceptional case in which the inflexible application of the legal restriction compromises the life plans of a person of only 26 years of age, who, in an intermediate step in the process of determining his personality and sexual identity, took a hasty decision to change his masculine name for a feminine one, which should not tie him indefinitely to a distinctive sign that does not match his sexual identity, defined at a later point, nor condemn him for the rest of his life to the loss of his dignity, liberty, autonomy or equality [italics mine]
It's another instance in which the Colombian Constitutional Court has acted progressively in recognizing the rights of sexual minorities (as reflected in a number of recent rulings granting same-sex couples many of the rights of married heterosexual partners).

Still, there is more to this particular case which troubles me.

For one, while the anonymous plaintiff currently identifies himself as a gay man, the reasons he provides for reversing his transition to a woman doesn't necessarily indicate a true change of heart but, instead, fear of what life would be like as a transgender woman.

He argued that as a result of his "sexual reorientation", he saw himself "doomed" to a life of prostitution and personal degradation which made him reflect on his future and his opportunities to gain worthy employment and raise a family.

He stated that his reflections led him to "leave behind everything and to begin dreaming about having a wife with whom to share the rest of my days and, at the same time, be able to have kids and be able to sustain my home through a worthy job."

This, of course, will sound familiar to many of us who fought against our attraction to the same gender when we were younger thinking that our desires were incompatible with leading a 'respectful' life.

Also troubling to me is that the Court seems to take the plaintiff at his word, not only in confusing gender identity and expression with sexual identity, but also in accepting that these are transitional stages which can easily change from one moment to the next.

Don't get me wrong. In my life I have known men who in their past began transitioning to being women and later reversed their decisions - and currently live happily as men. I also have known people who swear that they made the choice to be gay and I take them at their word since I believe that some people are born gay and others are not. That is, that sexuality is more complex that most people give it credit.

But the facts in this particular case seem to indicate that the reason behind reversing a change of gender was due more to societal pressures and expectations rather than a true change of heart.

So, in many ways, I believe this was the right verdict protecting a constitutional right to the free development of one's self but it was based on wrong assumptions about sexuality and gender.

Related:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Colombia: International calls for justice in murder of Alvaro Miguel Rivera

In the last few days, a few of the leading international human rights and LGBT rights advocacy organizations have released statements demanding that Colombian authorities properly investigate and resolve the March 6th murder of 41 year old Álvaro Miguel Rivera (pictured right) in the city of Cali.

They include:
To his credit, Jorge Iván Ospina, Cali's Mayor (pictured left), held a community town hall meeting on March 12th, six days after Rivera was found murdered and before most international organizations released their statements.

According to Cali's El Pais, Ospina announced that his office would give $20 million pesos (approx. $8,300 dollars) to anyone willing to give information leading to the capture of Rivera's killers.

Ospina also announced that his office would create a task force to address hate crimes against the LGBT population and not only when it came to murder investigations.

He also acknowledged that police authorities under his command might not be the most enlightened public force authorities, but argued that his office was trying to make things better, and said that authorities were still investigating the murders of dozens of transgender individuals named by Colombia Diversa.

El Tiempo also covered the town hall meeting and says that not everyone welcomed the Mayor's overtures. Pedro Julio Pardo, a member of a transgender rights organization in Cali called the Santa Maria Foundation, criticized the fact that it took Rivera's murder for the Mayor's office to take any action when he said that different organizations had spent months asking them to respond to the increasing number of murders, particularly in the transgender community.

Pardo said that, in the past two years, 22 transgender women have been found murdered and another 33 had reported being attacked and asked the Mayor to develop specific public policies to address the situation.

In the end, the Mayor and several LGBT community advocates agreed to form a "dialogue table" and to engage in follow-up meetings to develop an appropriate response to these crimes.

Previously:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Colombia: In Alvaro Rivera's murder, advocates demand hate crime investigation



Colombia Diversa, the largest LGBT rights advocacy organization in Colombia, has released a strong statement condemning last Friday's violent murder of LGBT rights activist Alvaro Miguel Rivera in the city of Cali, and demanded that authorities investigate whether it was a hate crime:
One of the founders of the LGBT movement in the country, Alvaro Miguel Rivera Linares, was murdered this past March 6th. Colombia Diversa demands an exhaustive investigation of this and the other cases in which the victims are LGBT individuals, and particularly those that show signs of homophobia.

Colombia Diversa demands that the corresponding authorities that they investigate the murder of Alvaro Miguel Rivera Linares exhaustively, as a renown defender of LGBT human rights and of people living with HIV.

Specifically, we ask that during the investigation it be entertained and verified whether there exist homophobic motivations of hate and prejudice, for his work as a defender, for the sexual orientation of Alvaro Rivera, and for the inhuman and cruel way in which he was murdered.

Alvaro Miguel dedicated a great part of his life to defend LGBT rights, reason why he was threatened on various occasions, and for which he even had to escape his hometown. Nonetheless, it is feared that the corresponding authorities might hurry to indicate other causes for the murder and might play down or ignore proof of homophobia, as has occurred with many similar cases.

Cruelty and impunity in Cali

There is worry about serious instances of prejudicial violence against the LGBT population in Cali, a situation which Colombia Diversa - along the Santa Maria Foundation - have reported for years. As it has been able to be established, the murder of Alvaro Miguel Rivera occurs in a context of generalized violence against the LGBT population, specifically in sectors of the city such as, among others, Loma de la Cruz, where there are registered instances of police abuse and arbitrary detentions, specially against the transgender community.

As the organization has warned, the authorities in charge regularly rush their conclusions on the motivations for the murder of an LGBT individual, particularly for personal prejudice and a lack of specialization in these kind of crimes, and confuse them with "crimes of passion", which not only blames the victim but also minimizes social responsibility for these acts.

In addition to this, the passivity and omission state entities in the City of Cali is it is evident when faced by this situation, even though it involves the public authorities.

For this reason Colombia Diversa announces it's concern and condemnation against the murder of Alvaro Miguel Rivera, as well as for the level of violence that exists in Cali towards the LGBT population. At the same time, it invites all the civil society organizations to express their rejection against these situations. In particular, we call on the following local and state authorities in Valle and Cali:

* Valle del Cauca Governor's Office
* Cali Mayor's Office
* Cali Police Department
* The Director of the local Cali Prosecution Office
* Regional Ombudsman for Valle del Cauca
* Cali public servants

We ask of these authorities that they:

1. That, in their investigative hypothesis, they consider Alvaro Miguel Rivera Linares' work as a defender of the human rights of the LGBT population as a possible motivation for the murder - and the context of violence against the LGBT community in Cali.

2. That they take prompt and effective actions to stop and prevent violence against the LGBT community in Cali, specially by the own public authorities of the city.

At the same time, Colombia Diversa urges the authorities on a national level to initiate investigative inquiries into the murder of LGBT human rights activists, as well as the other 67 deaths, confirmed by Colombia Diversa, between 2006 and 2007, in Colombia.

- Maurico Noguera, Colombia Diversa ( mnoguera @ colombiadiversa.com )
Colombia Diversa follows statements made by activists and friends who knew Alvaro in Cali (the YouTube video above, for which I have provided an onscreen translation, was broadcast on Saturday by Noticias Uno) demanding that the crime be investigated as a hate crime. In it, the Ombudsman of the City of Cali also demands an investigation of whether it was a hate crime.

In the meantime, as upset as I was about the murder of someone I admired, the details were what made things much worse. Today El Tiempo published the additional information I'd been keeping to myself:
Alvaro Miguel was found in his apartment tied to a bed, with blows to his body, which were probably produced by a stick or a bat, and with his teeth broken. The apartment had been trashed, as if the assailants were seeking something, but there was not one thing missing.
I was also told that his hands and mouth were also bound by duct-tape, which indicates to me that there was some planning to the murder.

Alvaro's murder has been receiving some international attention - and rightfully so - let's hope that the result is that his murderers are brought to justice.

Previously:
Alvaro Miguel Rivera Linares in his own words (Spanish):

Sunday, March 08, 2009

My New York: Star-struck


After the rally at the Spanish embassy yesterday and the bad news from Colombia this weekend I needed to head out and hang out with friends. I did - and I have to say I had a great time with The Doug at the usual bear haunts (Dugout, Ty's. et al.). At Ty's? The Bob! Yeah, yeah! I know, the Hüsker Dü stuff? Primo! But his solo stuff? Love it even more! Promised him I'd make it to Joe's Pub when he's back in New York in April. I don't easily get star-struck but, trust me! I was.

Colombia: A hero murdered


  • Facebook status update, Fri., March 6th, 10:24 am: "Organizing my life..."
  • Facebook schedule update, Fri., March 6th, 6:45 pm: Attending March 14th forum on "The legal advances for same-sex couples in Colombia" organized by Colectivo Tinku in Cali, Colombia.
Yesterday, as I was writing my post on the various demonstrations calling for justice in the murder of a gay couple in Spain, I was trying to find good online image galleries of the protest in Vigo, which was said to have drawn up to 2,000 people.

I found some articles but no good galleries. And then, for some reason, Google pulled up this headline from Colombia's El Espectador: "Pole LGTB leader murdered."

My heart sank. I swear I knew exactly who it would be even before I clicked on the link. But it still didn't lessen the shock or dismay when my fears were confirmed.

I was lucky enough to meet Alvaro Miguel Rivera a couple of times when he visited the United States. We'd been in touch before, of course, based on his extraordinary and enduring determination to fight for the rights of LGBT individuals and HIV positive people in what could be called one of the most homophobic regions in the country: El llano oriental (Colombia's rural eastern plains).

That's actually the reason I found out about him.

Back in 2001, Alvaro was living in Villavicencio, Meta, in a region set aside by the government as a 'safe haven' zone where FARC guerrilla members could walk around without fear of government intervention (it was part of a failed effort to reach peace with the armed insurgents). Alvaro, who had finished a degree in Agricultural Engineering, worked in a region known for it's cattle ranches and was already known as a public advocate for sexual minorities and those who were HIV positive.

He loved Villavicencio, not the least because his family lived there. But, as FARC troops began to move in, Alvaro began to receive anonymous phone calls, felt he was being followed by strangers, and reported harassing calls to his employers with the intent to tarnish his reputation. In April of 2001, he finally reported it to the local authorities and they told him that they could only wait until something actually happened to take any action. Police only began to investigate when Alvaro went public sending a series of e-mail messages to different organizations (at the time, I translated some of them on his behalf, and alerted human rights organizations in the United States, including IGLHRC).

All this in a worsening environment for those in the area who were HIV positive. In October of 2001, El Tiempo reported that the FARC had begun to require local residents to get tested for HIV and were giving a week-long ultimatum for people who tested positive to leave the region.

A week after the article was published, Alvaro actually reported having attended a meeting held between local hospital personnel and members of the FARC in which the FARC agreed to temporarily suspend the program. El Tiempo had reported that by then, they already had access to testing equipment and had tested more than 3,ooo individuals for HIV.

The 'safe haven' zone might have been lifted since then, but the death threats and harassment against Alvaro continued, forcing him to leave a place he loved so much. He decided to move to Cali - the third largest city in Colombia, following Bogota and Medellin - where he became the Director of Colectivo Tinku, a local LGBT rights organization.

He also became one of the founders and leaders of the local gay chapter of the Alternative Democratic Pole political party (which is why, the moment I read "Pole LGBT leader murdered" headline, I feared it might be Alvaro).

The article just said that the national Alternative Democratic Pole had released a statement in which they condemned his "brutal" murder on Friday night,

As of late, we had reconnected through, what else! - Our Facebook profiles! The article on his murder actually offered very few details so I went to his Facebook page and got confirmation that, indeed, it was Alvaro who'd been killed.

I've been in touch with a mutual friend and he says that he was found murdered in his apartment around 10pm and that police are currently investigating the crime. He died violently but I'll keep details to myself since they have not been published and the authorities might not want some of them to be made public as they begin the investigation.

There have been incredible advances as of late in the recognition of LGBT rights in Colombia which have resulted in several Constitutional Court rulings that have extended a series of protections to same-sex couples in the country - just short of recognizing the right to marry or to enter into a civil union.

One right that heterosexual couples enjoy but is denied to same-sex partners in Colombia is the right to adopt.

In a note Alvaro posted on February 2nd, he writes about his desire to be a father. An edited excerpt:

Today when I approach the fourth floor [his 40's] at a velocity which I cannot control and I feel the joy of maturity and the peacefulness I feel in being alone, I confronted an emotion similar to that [I felt when I turned 30].

I'd been out shopping, killing time in a shopping mall, bartering prices, and enamoring myself of things I cannot buy; all of a sudden I found myself in a store with things for babies and kids.

I noticed a baby's bed, a dining table, clothing for a newly born, toys, rattles, napkins, one and another photo album - I imagined what my baby would have been like, all chubby with straight dark hair, restless eyes and a cry-baby... I was so excited and engrossed in my longing, when a Ms. said to me "if it's a boy, you have to buy everything in blue, if it's a girl, you have to buy everything in pink". Without thinking what I was saying, I said "Lady, thanks for the suggestion. It will be a boy and I will buy everything in pink." Perhaps I was too harsh in my response because the lady left without replying.

[...]

Once I was back and with the silence of the apartment, I asked myself if I was a frustrated dad and if I had repeatedly denied myself the possibility of being a father, of seeing a child grow up, of bringing him a future.

If I wanted to be a father today in Colombia, I could not be one unless I renounced to being Gay, even if I love women I do not see myself having a penetrative relation to obtain my objective of becoming a father, I also don't think my dick would work.

The only [way] is that the Colombian government grant me the right enjoyed by any other citizen of this country to adopt a child, or various children. I think that I would be a good father, a bachelor father, of course. But the Colombian government is not entertaining [an option for] Gay, Lesbi, Trans persons to adopt.
Adoption rights for gays in Colombia might still become a reality if not before Alvaro died. And I found it truly moving - and sad- to read his thoughts on the possibility of becoming a father. That was pure Alvaro, mixing the personal with the activism, giving it such a human angle.

After years of being an out and proud gay man in the most difficult of circumstances and even under the threat of being killed, I also find comfort that Alvaro felt, as he expressed in the note, that he had reached a stage in which he felt "the joy of maturity and the peacefulness [of being alone]".

He is a tremendous loss to the international human rights movement and will be sorely missed. His family will be taking his body back to Villavicencio to fulfill his wish that, one day, he could be able to return to his beloved llanos. Rest in peace, Alvarín.

Update (3/10/09): In Alvaro Rivera's murder, advocates demand a hate crime investigation (Blabbeando)

Update (3/9/09): El Tiempo reports that Alvaro, who was 41, spent a few years in exile in Costa Rica due to death threats and had returned to Colombia five years ago. According to the Alternative Democratic Pole, he was still receiving death threats after settling in Cali. The paper says that the crime "was reported by a neighbor who found him with his hands tied and with a blow to the head."

Cali's El País, which surprisingly has only ran a blurb on the murder, says that the room had been turned upside-down but that the door had no signs of having been forced open.

El Tiempo also says of Alvaro:
Rivera was part of the June Unity Association; organized 'Process T'; was the founder of Colectivo Tinku, gave support to the the organizing of the "Leaders of the LGBT Sector" organizational gathering, and was a founder of Cali's Third LGBT Pride March.

He participated in national initiatives such as Planet Peace, was one of the founders of the National Colombian Network of People Living w/HIV (RECOLVIH) and established contacts in Mexico and Spain related to the issue of social inclusion o the LGBTI sector.

In the last tri-mester of 2008 he started the "Cali, city without limits: Territory of Social Inclusion" of Cali's Mayor's Office.

Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti, one of the leading legal advocates on LGBT issues in Colombia, and a close friend of Alvaro's, released a statement in which he calls it a "hate crime" and alludes to hypotheses that Alvaro might have invited the persons who killed him into his apartment (it's a literal translation so some passages might read a bit awkward in English):
The hate crime [committed against] Alvaro Miguel Rivera, an activist living with HIV and [who was] homosexual in Cali, Colombia, has us heartbroken; nevertheless this is a reality that has always been present for many years, in many cities of Colombia and the world (remember the crime against Versace, the designer, in Miami).

To engage in prevention so that homosexual men do not take other men to their place of residence is not the solution. All people have the right to make use of a non-reproductive recreational sexuality, nevertheless this does not justify a hate crime, as rape of a woman cannot be justified by her wearing a mini-skirt or for sensually showing her breasts or other attributes.

We have received and will receive many more messages of repudiation, nevertheless **I MAKE A CALL FOR ENGAGING IN STRUCTURAL ACTIONS at the local level (government offices at state capitals) and the national level.

We demand urgently that the Prosecutor's Office create a hate crimes unit and study and investigate our [crimes] within the agency.

We demand that Congress, the Prosecutor's Office, the Police and other administrative entities on a national level, submit reports on the issue, in order to question the OMISSION of the Government, elicit expectations, put the issue on the public and political agenda.

To meet at local City Councils, seek funding to engage in prevention, sustain 24-hour help lines, and actions in which it is understood that more than 99% of the people in our community live and act in the closet, which reacquire actions according to the real life situation, to study circumstances of vulnerability, which make us objects of these persons and gangs who believe that with these crimes they do a favor to the world by finishing-off one more, as when travestis and homeless people are murdered, and which are done in what is called "social cleansing".

To make public that there exist public discourses that help to feed these crimes and to ask that they stop causing us harm.

It's necessary to call for meetings in the cities in which we host activists in order to develop a short-, medium- and long-term PLAN.

Alvaro Miguel, what hurt!!!!!!!!

- Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti
Bogota, Colombia

Related (English):
  • Spanish language internet video interview with Alvaro, posted on Terra.com's gay portal TodoGay.com back in June 20th, 2008, in which he responds to questions about his LGBT activism in Colombia.

Related (Spanish):

Saturday, March 07, 2009

New Yorkers gather to demand justice in murder of gay couple in Spain


Previously:
Considering that the call didn't go out until Wednesday night, and that the news of a court acquittal in the murder of two gay men In Spain was only picked up by a few gay blogs US-wise, I'd say that today's gathering outside the Spanish embassy to protest the court's verdict was a success. All in all about 20 to 25 people showed up.

I also have to say that, for me, the greatest thing was to see my friend Karlo Karlo (fifth from right) moved into action by calling on the gathering after being shocked and disgusted by what he read on my blog. Having been to Vigo - where the couple was killed - and considering it as one of his favorite places to visit, Karlo felt a personal duty to do something here in New York.

I was also touched by just who showed up. Dennis deLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS, and Heriberto Sanchez-Soto, President of the Hispanic AIDS Forum. Gay USA reporter and ACTUPer Ann Northrop (a personal all-time hero), and other ACTUPers like Bill Dobbs, Emmaia Gelman and John Francis Mulligan. The later two also members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), who fight every year for inclusion in the Manhattan Irish Day Parade (they also blog at Irish Queers).

Emmaia was there with her partner and brought their kids along. They pretty much stole the show for most of the afternoon (the sign, written by Karlo, read "Nor Spain, not the world, tolerates as vile a verdict. Shameful!").

Also among those who came: Yet another Irish guy! Brendan Francis Fay (Yikes! How many Irish guys are named Francis?). Brendan I have known, like, forever. We worked decades ago on immigration issues and he has since then become known more for his role in challenging Polish attitudes about same-sex relationships and for honoring the life of gay New York Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Erik Bottcher, the LGBT liaison to the New York City Council, and my friends Noel Alicea, John Ozed, Gerardo Piñeda, Daniel Ravelo, Jorge Irizarry, Elyaqim Moshe Adam, and Jusqifabio Flores who publishes a monthly Spanish-language newsletter on NYC Latino LGBT issues called Una Sola Voz (he arrived with his partner as well).

On Karlo's side, he brought along Spaniard artists Carlos Casado and Alfonso Muñoz. So even if there wasn't a huge presence number-wise, the deck was stacked!

Bill Dobbs, who showed up with a sign that read "JUSTICE NOT VENGEANCE" (above) made sure to make a point that while justice should be served in the murders, people should not turn their anger at the verdict into vengeful feelings.

BTW, that's me in the pic speaking to Noel (courtesy of the Ozed guy).

In the meantime, in Vigo, Spain, a thousand persons came out today demanding justice in the murders! Related news (and video) over at the following Spanish-language links:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

NYC solidarity demo to protest acquittal in murder of gay couple in Vigo, Spain!

This blog has been getting massive hits today and I have to thank Rex Wockner, Towleroad, Joe.My.God, John Aravosis, Dan Savage, Michael-in-Norfolk and Pam for picking up on my Monday post on the 'gay panic' acquittal of a man who murdered a gay couple in Spain.

The latest news is that the murderer, Jacobo Piñeiro Rial, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison. He was given the maximum for burning down the apartment where he killed the couple. But remains acquitted of taking the life of two men.

A friend of mine was so shocked by the murder and verdict that he has been spending the last couple of days setting up a demo here in New York City to coincide with the ones planned this weekend in Madrid, Barcelona and Vigo.

Here is the Facebook page (which you can join) and the details:
New Yorkers in Solidarity with Vigo, Spain.
Saturday, March 7, 2009 (1:00 - 2:30 PM)

Where: In front of the Spanish Embassy in New York City.
150 East 58 Street.

A group of solidarity demonstrators against the acquittal of double murderer Julio Piñeiro Rial in Vigo, Spain. Piñeiro murdered Isaac Ali Dani Peréz Triviño and Julio Anderson Luciano of 57 stabbing wounds. On February 20th, 2009, Pineiro was acquitted of double murder.

THE WORLD WANTS JUSTICE and we are all gathering in solidarity in front of the Spanish Embassy on March 7, 2009 from 1:00 - 2:30 PM

The demonstration in New York City on Saturday, March 7, 2009 in front of the Spanish Embassy is to show support in solidarity with those that are appalled by the outcome of the case. The demonstration sends a clear message to the WORLD that nowadays we need to listen, react and respond to this outrage.

Our message to all Spaniards is that the we, New Yorkers, care and offer our support; that we embrace the pain of Marta Pérez Triviñio, mother of Isaac, and all their relatives and friends, as well as those of Julio Anderson; that in moments of injustice we cannot simply stand mute.
A couple of things that have come up in comments elsewhere:

1. The couple did not pick up Piñiero together. Isaac worked as a bartender at the gay bar Strong and served him drinks when Piñiero arrived at the bar and aparently invited him home after his shift was over. They spent the afternoon together (from 4:30pm to 10:30pm) at the gay couple's apartment and forensic reports say that both did cocaine. No traces of sperm DNA were found on Treviñio's body although a friend of the couple does say that he knocked on the door early in the day and left when Treviñio answered wearing just a towel and he heard a man's voice inside the apartment.

2. The ruling has been challenged in a higher court. The Top Tribunal Justice Court of Galicia has accepted a challenge to the ruling and say that they will decide whether the popular court reached a just verdict or not within two months. There is still a chance that justice can be done in this murder.

3. The crime was not only horrendous but also xenophobic: In statements that Piñeiro made to the police (which were not played in court in their entirety), he expressed disgust that a black Brazilian immigrant might make sexual advances and told witnesses afterwards that he had been first accosted by the 'nigger'.

4. Piñeiro and his lawyer used the 'gay panic' argument to get him off murder charges: Let's see Piñeiro met one of his victims at a gay bar and accepted his invite to spend the afternoon together. From 4:30 pm to 10:30 pm he was alone with someone he knew was gay. At 4:00 am he claims that he 'gay panicked' and still, after murdering the couple, he still didn't leave their apartment until 9:30am, showered and carrying a suitcase full of the gay couple's belongings. Doesn't sound like panicky. Just methodical.

5. Worse than reported: I have to say that I was literally sickened to read some of the forensic reports of the murder and that, as a matter of fact, I kept some of the most disturbing stuff out of my previous blog post. Here it is: Not only did Piñeiro stab his victims 57 times, cover them with blankets, tie them up with cables, and set them on fire... He also made sure to stab Isaac in the face so badly that the firemen who responded to the fire alarms said that it was the worst they had ever seen.

So! If you have some time, please join us on Saturday! I might even take a pic or two and feature you on this blog! If you cared for Matthew Shepard, care for Isaac and Julio! Join us on Saturday!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Spain: Outrage at aquittal of man who stabbed gay couple 57 times and set their bodies on fire

[UPDATE 3/4/09: A solidarity vigil will be held in New York City this coming Saturday, March 7, 2009, at 1:00 pm outside the Spanish embassy - more details here].

27 year old Isaac Ali Dani Peréz Triviño (left) was born in Spain. 32 year old Julio Anderson Luciano (right) was born in Brazil. They lived together in the Spanish province of Vigo and were planning to get married.

Both were stabbed to death by Jacobo Piñeiro Rial in their apartment in the early morning of January 13th, 2006. The bodies showed a total of 57 stab wounds, according to forensics.

After killing them, Piñeiro took a shower and cleaned himself up. He filled a suitcase with some of their belongings to make it look like a robbery and then spilled clothing all over the place. He poured alcohol over everything, including his victims' bodies, turned on the gas spigot on the stove, and set everything on fire. The local fire department said that little evidence would have survived if it wasn't for their prompt response to the 5-alarm fire.

Piñeiro (left) hardly knew the men. Testimony revealed that Piñiero had spent the previous afternoon consuming cocaine and drinking at a gay bar called Strong at which Pérez Triviñio happened to work as a bartender. When his shift ended at 4:30pm, the bartender invited Piñeiro home. They spent the afternoon together until Anderson Luciano arrived around 10:30pm with two friends.

Pérez Triviñio came out of his room to greet them while they cooked some food but went back to his room without eating. Anderson Luciano's friends left after the late dinner but Piñeiro stayed overnight.

There are no independent witnesses, but police and forensic experts say that the murder rampage began around 4:00am. Apparently, Pérez Triviñio was stabbed first but did not die. Piñeiro then stabbed Anderson Luciano twice while in the couples' room, and 22 more times as he followed his victim out of the room, into a corridor and out to the living room - where he died.

Pérez Triviñio, in the meantime, had locked himself in the room and records show that he was able to call local authorities. The call was cut short when Piñeiro was able to break back into the room and finish him off by stabbing him 35 more times.

In the living room, he tied Anderson Luciano's hands and put a blanket over his body; in the bedroom, he placed a blanket over Pérez Triviñio's head, tied a cable around it, and tethered it to a bed post. He then emptied closets and threw clothes all over the apartment, poured alcohol and set everything on fire.

Piñeiro left the building around 9:30am. He was carrying the suitcase he had filled with the men's belongings and initially asked a friend if he could hide it. When his friend declined, he went back to his hometown, Cangas, and walked into another bar. When news of the fire and double-murder flashed on the television screen, he confessed to the bartender that he'd been the one to set the place on fire, and asked him to hide the suitcase. The bartender also declined to keep it. Piñeiro was arrested a couple of days later based on leads given by the men he encountered after leaving Vigo.

Defense: On trial, Piñiero refused to testify and was not put under cross-examination. But then, in a surprise move, he agreed to make a personal statement before the jury on the last day of trial.

"I will not blame anyone, the blame is mine for who I am", he said, while acknowledging that he had killed both men.

His defense? In a statement riddled by inconsistencies, he said that he had slept in a guest bedroom, and was awakened late at night by a naked Anderson Luciano, who invited him over for sex. He says that he was 'disgusted' by the sexual advances and rejected them, only to be threatened with a knife. Piñeiro says that he 'panicked' and successfully wrestled the knife away from his assailant - and used it to 'defend' himself. He also claimed that Pérez Triviñio came to his partner's defense brandishing a second knife. What do you know! He also stripped the knife away from him and continued to 'defend' himself!

His lawyer argued that Piñeiro was overcome by an "insurmountable fear of being raped and being murdered" and that his judgment was clouded by the alcohol and cocaine he had consumed in the previous two days (forensic experts had stated earlier said the effect of the cocaine would have rubbed off long before the killings and that, once he was arrested, there were no traces of alcohol in his body which did not match up with the huge amount of alcohol that Piñeiro said he had ingested). In other words, his lawyer used the well-known 'gay panic' defense.

Verdict: The jury bought it! La Voz de Galicia says that Piñeiro almost walked out of the courtroom free. He was acquitted of murder charges, and, in the first draft of the jury's statement, he was also acquitted of 'consciously' setting the apartment on fire. It was only after beginning to read the statement in court that the judge stepped in to correct some "errors" which led Piñiero to be charged in setting up the fire. When the verdict was read, jury members covered their face, perhaps already aware of the outrage that their verdict would elicit.

He remains to be sentenced and is expected to be sent to prison for 15 to 20 years for setting the fire. If he hadn't been acquitted of the murder charges, he would have been sent to prison for up to 60 years.

Justice: Marta Pérez Triviñio (left), Isaac's mother, is heartbroken. She says that the jury's verdict is "homophobic, racist and brainless" and spoke of Julio as being almost like a second son. She broke down after the verdict, but has steadfastly demanded justice to whoever will listen.

She actually lived with Isaac and Jacobo. The night of the murders, Ms. Pérez Triviñio had gone to a scheduled overnight visit to a charity service organization. She says that she will forever blame herself for not staying home that night and feels that her son and his partner would still be alive if she hadn't left.

Facebook: Rober Bass, a gay man who lives in Vigo and was outraged by the murder acquittals, has also set up a Facebook page calling for protests in Vigo, Madrid and Barcelona this Saturday, March 7th (there is a separate Facebook page for that specific protest).

Vigo was already the scene for a small demonstration that took place on Feb. 25th after the verdict.

This is a despicable crime with an unfortunate court ruling. It might yet become Spain's very own Matthew Sheppard moment.

Spanish-language sources:
In Spanish, from Telecinco's "Rojo y Negro":